Musicals with origins in prior incarnations think "American Idiot," a full-length rock album by band Green Day before it became a full-cast musical worthy of Broadway can be strange creatures.
So there's a certain method in the madness of turning DreamWorks' "Shrek" film series franchise into a musical. After all, the main character himself is something of a strange character, not by virtue of his green skin and horns, but because he prizes the solitude of his swamp above all until fate intervenes. The third incarnation of the national tour of this Broadway show plays Capitol Theatre through March 3. Here's all you need to know in an opening-night review:
Plot summary • A classic story of ogre meets princess, ogre bonds with princess, but both narrowly escape the crossed wires of misunderstanding and a catty, bratty Lord Farquaad to find true love. "Shrek: The Musical" inverts and even subverts the fairy-tale paradigm not just with a flurry of contemporary cultural references, but with an allegory about inner-beauty. A sub-plot about a band of story-book characters evicted from their proper habitat is fine, but ultimately forgettable. However, there's no arguing that without them, the musical would lose more than a little luster in its ensemble cast.
High point/low point • High points abound, with lead Perry Sook lending Shrek poignant urgency in his singing during "When Words Fail." Whitney Winfield holds her own as Princess Fiona. But it's Christian Marriner who almost steals the show as Lord Farquaad, with his almost impossibly haughty delivery of an ego so outsize it doesn't known when to stop growing. As for low points, the singing of Pinocchio in Act I's opening numbers is hard on the ears, but that's probably part of the point in such a minor character. In addition, not all of Shrek's Celtic brogue accent is audible.
Best special or unexpected effect • A unique exploding prop during Princess Fiona's singing competition in "Morning Person," at the beginning of Act II, gives new meaning to the phrase "leaving the nest."
Best joke or sight-gag • Has to be the farting and belching contest between Shrek and Princess Fiona during "I Think I Got You Beat." If that's too earthy for your taste, you can always wait for Lord Farquaad or Jeremy Gaston, who plays Donkey, to supply the next round of howlers. Everything from "Scarface" to Carly Rae Jepsen gets a knowing reference.
Is it worth the time and ticket price? • Not every scene flows forcefully, or even logically, into the next. It's sometimes wearisome to wait for the slow first act to pay off by the second. What seems like a shoo-in musical for the kids might not be, thanks to the way the plot mocks its own fairy-tale expectations. In the end, these are all minor complaints against a production that gains considerable momentum by show's end. Like Shrek himself, the whole rumbling enterprise finds its own way home, and a sense of comfort inside its own green skin and flower-shaped horns. Not a masterpiece by any stretch, but eminently enjoyable on its own terms.
'Shrek: The Musical'
When • Through March 3. Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $30-$57.50, at 801-355-ARTS or visit www.arttix.org.
Bottom line • Forget that you're watching actors working off the template of an animated cartoon, and this charming musical finds sure footing despite a somewhat slow start. Two hours and 30 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.